New research suggests that an increasing number of children are going to school hungry, because their parents can’t afford to feed them properly. The findings come as a stark illustration of the impact the recession is continuing to have on families.
Around 16 % of children in the East of England are officially recognised as living in poverty - generally classed as households where income is less than 60 % of typical earnings. In some urban areas such as Norwich, that figure rises to as much as 30 %.
A recent study carried out by The Prince’s Trust surveyed 78 secondary school teachers from the East of England. According to its findings, teachers were witnessing increasing numbers of pupils coming into school “hungry”, “dirty” and “struggling to concentrate” since the recession.
Two thirds of teachers surveyed regularly witnessed pupils coming into school hungry. One in five of these (20 per cent) said they had seen this more frequently since the recession in 2009, with some teachers admitting that they often buy food for struggling pupils from their own wages.
Ann Merrigan, manager of Haverhill Food Bank at the Reach Resource Centre said she’s not surprised by these findings. She has seen more and more families coming to the food bank asking for help.
“There’s definitely been an increase in demand over the last year really, a steady increase. We have four to five boxes of food going out every single day. We’re open 5 days a week, so 25, possibly even 30 boxes of food going out a week to families and individuals. Quite often we hear stories of families who don't eat themselves, so that their children can eat. That's not really acceptable, is it?"
The Haverhill Food Bank is one of ten around the region, set up by The Trussell Trust. The charity has seen such an increase in demand, that it is now setting up a further seven food banks in the East of England.
Rebecca Brett recently relied on the food bank to help her feed her family. As a single mother, she says she is on a tight monthly budget, which was stretched to breaking point when an unexpected bill went out of her bank account.
"I've got a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old. I work ten hours a week but once my bills have been paid I'm left with very little for the month. My kids come before anything else, obviously I needed food for my kids. I would have gone hungry myself. My kids get fed before me so I obviously needed to think of something and I noticed Reach Resource Centre do foodbanks."
Ana Sousa is another mother-of-two who has been helped by the Haverhill Food Bank. She says her troubles began when her husband had an accident and could no longer work. They have an 8-year-old and a 2-year-old to feed.
"I feel horrible, it's very embarrassing for me, because I don't have food to put on the table. I need to think everyday, what am I going to put on the table for my children. I'm not thinking about me and my partner, but I think about my children first so I come here for help.”